The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags


If you’re reading this, then you know you should be using Instagram hashtags with in your posts. The question is, how do you choose the best ones for you? The more thought you put into this at the beginning, the easier it will be for you to leverage Instagram’s algorithm and increase the chances for people to find and follow your account.

It’s been proven that posts with hashtags get many more reactions – when used effectively – from comments to likes, new followers and new social interactions. So mapping out a hashtag strategy is a great way to get your content discovered by new audiences and to grow your account – for free.

Follow 5 Steps to Use Instagram Hashtags

The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags

Here are the core steps you need to take to leverage Instagram hashtags and increase your reach:

Step 1. Why should people follow you?

This is the first thing you need to think about when starting building your Instagram account. Why should people care about your posts? Are you creating content from a place of service, wanting to share real, meaningful ideas that will actually move people from a place of stagnation to inspired action? Or are you just chasing vanity metrics?

Give people a reason to care and to click that “Follow” button. Do you have a clearly identifiable theme? Can someone figure out what your account is about in five seconds or less? Do you have a clear call to action in every post?

For example, your three main goals for your Instagram content types could be:

  • quotes – to inspire
  • lifestyle images – to engage
  • product shots – to teach and create desire

Once you get all this dialed in, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2. Use a hashtag matrix

If you’ve been using the same set of hashtags for every piece of content, then you need to stop. It’s not only inefficient, but it’s actually hurting your Insta game. Although it might be the easiest way to add hashtags to every post, this old trick will only bring irrelevant eyeballs to your content.

Instead, mix it up and prepare a few sets of hashtags that you can use for different types of posts. First, create a list of hashtags that are relevant to your brand / niche and then use them together according to the type of content you generally post.

For example, if you are a life coach, you could group your hashtags according to topics like: life coaching, personal development, personal growth, self-esteem, leadership, productivity, etc. Now, get a little deeper and use a three-tier strategy to choose your hashtags.

The idea is to use 1/3 hashtags that:

  • don’t have a lot of volume and are more specific to your niche / location and to each of the posts you share
  • have big volume
  • have huge volume

A great way to uncover these smaller, micro hashtags is to just spy on our competition. See the smaller, community-based hashtags they are using and go follow some of those for a while to get a feel of the content shared under each of them.

One cool tool you can use to uncover relevant hashtags is For Display Purposes Only. Enter a hashtag and the tool will give you a list of hashtags based on relevance and popularity. Take these and check them out on Insta to see if they are a good fit for your own content.

Step 3. Add hashtags to your stories

Another great way to leverage hashtags and get your content discovered is to use them in all your Insta stories. The cool thing is that, like with regular posts, when you add a hashtag to an Insta Story, it becomes searchable from the Search & Discover section.

A cool trick is to make your hashtags invisible, so you can add more to your Story without making it look cluttered. Simply go ahead and select your content, press the # button and start adding your hashtags.

Then, tap on the pen and drag it across the screen until the color matches the background color. Voila! You’ve added multiple hashtags, no one can see them, but they’re still working their magic!

Step 4. Use a hashtag calendar

This simply means you’re going to piggyback ride on the top trending topics and hashtags each month. Check out this social media calendar created by Hubspot that has dialed in some of the major days and events in the world that you can leverage in your content.

You can go ahead and schedule some of your content around these dates to make sure you bring some of that attention back to your account.

Step 5. Avoid banned hashtags 

Some hashtags were so much overused in the past, that they cluttered the algorithms so they have become banned. It’s enough to use just one banned hashtag to make your whole meticulously prepared post invisible for other users.

Currently, there are over 114,000 banned hashtags! Better safe than sorry, so check carefully the list of potential hashtags for your niche.

How to check which hashtags were banned?

  • tap the hashtag you have in mind in your in the search bar in the bottom menu
  • if it doesn’t appear, likely the hashtag was banned either temporarily or indefinitely.

The safest option is to use specific community hashtags, putting them in the caption (more favorable than in the comments) and avoid the general hashtags which are so common, that they may block the whole app.


Hopefully, these tips will help you get started using hashtags effectively to increase your reach and gain relevant followers on your Instagram account. Keep in mind that relevance always weighs more than popularity.

It all starts and ends with how much value you can provide for your audience. It’s better to have a less than perfect photo or video, where you share the real you and some of your thoughts and insights, than a perfectly polished piece of content that adds zero value to people.

We’d love to know your experiences using hashtags on Instagram, so feel free to share your thoughts here in the comments section!

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Author: Sarah is a blogger and online entrepreneur who shares her ideas about how to date better on her blog, Wingman Magazine, which attracts around half million visitors per month. She is passionate about healthy, conscious living. Her ultimate goal is to empower men to become the best versions of themselves and help them benefit from social interactions.